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Presidential election boosts local candidates

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Local political observers say they're not surprised that incumbent Democrat Louise Slaughter beat Republican Maggie Brooks, the Monroe County executive, in their Congressional contest. But they are surprised, they say, by Slaughter's margin of victory. According to unofficial results from the Monroe County Board of Elections, Slaughter bested Brooks by about 15 percentage points, 166,342 votes to 124,585 votes. The final poll in the race, released less than a week before the election, had Slaughter up by 10 points.

It's not a "trouncing," as some media have reported. (For a real trouncing, see US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's victory over attorney Wendy Long.) But Slaughter's victory was solid.

Slaughter was certainly helped by the presidential election. The Obama-Romney contest brought out the city vote, which went heavily for Slaughter. Turnout for the City of Rochester was about 71 percent. To put that in perspective, in 2010, an "off" year, city turnout was approximately 43 percent.

And Slaughter's numbers in the 25th District race are nearly identical to the Obama-Biden ticket's margin of victory over Romney-Ryan in Monroe County.

Beyond the numbers, though, Brooks made tactical errors. She delayed talking about national issues — some would say she never did address them satisfactorily — choosing instead to run on her record as county executive. She seemed to think that her considerable star power combined with the public's disgust with Congress would propel her to victory. She may have underestimated voters' affection for Slaughter, too.

Slaughter's campaign went early, hard, and heavy on the county's scandals and its reputation for cronyism and patronage under Brooks. It's tough to tell how much of an impact that had. The strategy has never worked for Dems in local races, but they've never had Slaughter's money and political machine working for them, either.

So, what's next? Some people say the loss damaged Brooks' viability as a future candidate. Not necessarily. She's relatively young, still popular locally, a prolific fund-raiser, and now has the experience of a national campaign under her belt. We'll see her name on a ballot again, and probably soon. She could, for example, run for State Senate in two years, knocking out Democrat Ted O'Brien. And that would give another Republican a year of incumbency in the county executive job. (Brooks has three years left before she's termed out.)

Speaking of which, where should we look for Brooks' heir? We're hearing buzz about Anthony Daniele, Republican majority leader in the County Legislature. And a couple of town supervisors seem to be interested.

As for Slaughter? Who knows how long she'll stay in Congress. But at 83, she shows little sign of slowing down. Speculated future candidates for Slaughter's seat include Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy and state Assembly member Joe Morelle. And Brooks could make another run.

The Sean Hanna-Ted O'Brien State Senate race was one ugly, expensive mess. With control of the State Senate at stake, the race attracted money from several outside interest groups, including an anonymous group that ran ads against several Democratic state Senate candidates. (Control of the Senate still hadn't been settled as of this writing.)

The group targeted O'Brien with vitriolic and, in some cases, outright false ads.

So was O'Brien's victory a rejection of those foul tactics? Maybe. But like Slaughter, O'Brien was bolstered by the citywide turnout, more than tripling Hanna's total, unofficially. And not having an incumbent in the race — former Republican Senator Jim Alesi chose not to run again — left the door wide open for O'Brien. Democrats also have an enrollment edge in the district.

About the only local Democrat to have a bad night was Monroe County Legislator Stephanie Aldersley, a Democrat, who was defeated by Republican Joe Carbone. One probable factor: ballot lines. Aldersley had one to Carbone's four, including the Working Families Party line, which usually goes to Democrats.

Both candidates were known to voters. Aldersley had been in the Legislature once before, and is a former member of the Irondequoit Town Board. Carbone ran, unsuccessfully, for the 16th District seat in 2011 against Vinnie Esposito.

The Aldersley outcome could have interesting implications. If the County Legislature delays its vote on bonding for MCC's new downtown campus until Carbone takes office in January, it means Republicans would only need one Democratic vote to approve the borrowing. Rochester Mayor Tom Richards opposes the attempt to move MCC, and so far County Lej Dems have supported his position. Is there a Democrat willing to break ranks? And who would that person be?

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